TRAVEL Yes, it’s pos­si­ble to see Paris on a bud­get. How to en­joy great art, ter­rific food and all the sights with­out spend­ing a for­tune

GET­TING YOUR cul­tural fix IN ONE OF EUROPE’S most beau­ti­ful cities NEEDN’T break the bank. HERE’S OUR GUIDE TO as­tound­ing art, DELECTABLE food AND re­mark­able sights IN PARIS (MOSTLY) on the cheap


Af­fec­tion­ately known as the City of Love, the City of Light and more re­cently, the City of Art, Paris is home to art in all forms, in­clud­ing clas­sic and cut­ting-edge ar­chi­tec­ture, amaz­ing in­te­ri­ors, avant­garde fash­ion and in­spir­ing per­form­ing arts. There’s no get­ting past the fact that Europe – and the French cap­i­tal in par­tic­u­lar – is an eye-wa­ter­ingly ex­pen­sive des­ti­na­tion for any­one trav­el­ling on rands, but it is pos­si­ble to visit the city on a bud­get, leav­ing cash for spoils along the way.


The first thing you’ll no­tice when ex­plor­ing Paris is the in­cred­i­ble ar­chi­tec­ture that sur­rounds you, from the grand boule­vards of the Right Bank and me­dieval al­leys in the Latin Quar­ter to the Gothic fly­ing but­tresses of Notre-Dame Cathe­dral and the iconic glass-and-metal Lou­vre Pyra­mid, de­signed for the mu­seum by Chi­nese-Amer­i­can ar­chi­tect IM Pei. If you want to take it all in from above, walk up the steps of the Sacré-Coeur Basil­ica church in Mont­martre for a free view that more than makes up for the steep climb.

A lesser-known gem that daz­zles with 180-de­gree views is La Ter­rasse on the rooftop of the fa­mous Ga­leries Lafayette Hauss­mann depart­ment store. After ad­mir­ing all the in­ter­na­tional brands inside, make your way to the store’s ter­race on the seventh floor to sip a glass of bub­bly at Cube Bar, eat a snack at Mediter­ranean restau­rant La Pail­lote or sim­ply take in the vis­tas of the city and its land­marks.

Sit­u­ated next door is the Palais Garnier, the fa­mous 19th-cen­tury opera house de­signed by French ar­chi­tect Charles Garnier for Em­peror Napoleon III. Book­ing in ad­vance can be quite pricey, so if you don’t mind which per­for­mance you watch, get in line at the box of­fice from 11.30am for cheap tick­ets that cost as lit­tle as €10 for a show that night. No mat­ter what’s on – and it could be any­thing from mod­ern dance to a full-scale opera pro­duc­tion – get to the the­atre an hour be­fore it starts, as there are of­ten warm-up per­for­mances in the foyer and open spa­ces. You’ll need am­ple time to take in this mag­nif­i­cent Beaux Arts build­ing, with its Grand Stair­case, gilded dec­o­ra­tions, in­tri­cate mo­saics and breath­tak­ing paint­ings and sculp­tures.

Once you’re inside the op­u­lent red-and-gold au­di­to­rium, you may find your view of the stage ob­structed, be­cause the cheap seats are of­ten in the gods, but there’s plenty else at which to gaze. Look up at the colour­ful ceil­ing painted in 1964 by Marc Cha­gall that pays homage to 14 ma­jor com­posers and their oeu­vres, and marvel at the orig­i­nal bronze-and-glass chan­de­lier de­signed by Garnier him­self. And re­mem­ber to look out for Box 5 – it’s kept open for the phan­tom, be­cause the Palais Garnier was the set­ting of French writer Gas­ton Ler­oux’s fa­mous novel The Phan­tom of the Opera.


For a cost-con­scious in­fu­sion of art, visit the gar­dens of Musée Rodin, a mu­seum ded­i­cated to the works of French sculp­tor Au­guste Rodin. Housed in the Hô­tel Biron, an 18th-cen­tury man­sion, the build­ing’s fa­cade is a mas­ter­piece in its own right, and for a frac­tion of the price of mu­seum en­try, you can stroll around the exquisitely tended 3ha gar­dens. As well as clas­sic French land­scap­ing and two themed walks, you’ll find full-sized sculp­tures by the artist, in­clud­ing his works ‘The Thinker’, ‘The Burghers of Calais’ and ‘The Gates of Hell’.

Sadly, I think a trip up the Eif­fel Tower is over­rated, with queues and throng­ing masses putting a dam­per on the ex­pe­ri­ence. That said, the tower re­mains an im­pres­sive sight and can be en­joyed for free from the Place du Tro­cadéro across the river Seine. Also the lo­ca­tion of the Palais de Chail­lot, which houses three notable mu­se­ums as well as a café and the­atre, this mar­bled ter­race is an ex­cel­lent van­tage point for views of the mon­u­ment. Wake up early to see the sun rise through the wrought-iron lat­tice, or wait un­til dark­ness falls and the 324m-high struc­ture is il­lu­mi­nated, a tra­di­tion that dates back to 1985.

For an ex­tra dose of magic, watch the Eif­fel tower sparkle as 20 000 twin­kling lights are lit for five min­utes ev­ery hour on the hour from night­fall un­til 1am.



In Paris, food is as close to an art form as you’ll get, and there are plenty of authen­tic and af­ford­able op­tions. Stop in at any neigh­bour­hood mar­ket for an ar­ray of fresh pro­duce, baked goods, char­cu­terie, cheeses and lo­cal wines, then set out to find a pic­nic spot that suits your fancy. Do as the lo­cals do and set­tle next to the river Seine to watch the world go by, or else lux­u­ri­ate in the pic­ture-per­fect Lux­em­bourg Gar­den in Paris’ Left Bank. The site of Lux­em­bourg Palace and the Medici Foun­tain, both of which date back to the 1600s, the 23ha gar­den was the first of its kind to be in­flu­enced by the Ital­ian Baroque style and boasts immaculate lawns, nu­mer­ous sculp­tures and the Grand Bassin pond, where chil­dren can play with 1920s toy sail­boats.

Brunch has be­come a Parisian in­sti­tu­tion, es­pe­cially when it in­volves peo­ple-watch­ing and pas­tries. Lo­cated on Île Saint-Louis, a nat­u­ral is­land in the river Seine con­nected to the rest of Paris by four bridges, Café Saint-Régis is a favourite for those crav­ing a de­li­cious omelette or croque-mon­sieur. It also of­fers a spe­cial Sun­day brunch menu that can be en­joyed on the ter­race.

In the Jewish quar­ter of the his­toric Le Marais district, which has more pre­rev­o­lu­tion­ary build­ings and streets than any other part of Paris, kosher falafel is the king of street food, mak­ing L’As du Fal­lafel a must-visit. The eatery is known for pitas stuffed with fresh salad, crisp falafel and tahini, with a dol­lop of spicy rel­ish. It may not be the pret­ti­est meal, but it’s a scrump­tious of­fer­ing that will set you up for the rest of the af­ter­noon.

When sup­per­time rolls around, avoid the over­priced brasseries and head to L’Ilot, an unas­sum­ing but very pop­u­lar neigh­bour­hood seafood joint. It presents a daily se­lec­tion of fish and shell­fish from the French coasts, so get ready to rub shoul­ders with the cool crowd as you en­joy mor­eish tarama, tuna and bream ce­viche, tiny grey shrimp, sea urchins, oys­ters and plat­ters of crus­taceans.

For a lit­tle late-night rev­elry, stop in at Le Ball­room, a hip cock­tail bar and club in the base­ment of Beef Club steak­house. Be­hind its un­marked black door, this place has a de­light­ful speakeasy vibe and fea­tures a tiled ceil­ing, vin­tage-feel wall­cov­er­ings, Ch­ester­field so­fas and vel­vet fur­ni­ture.

The star of the show is the cock­tail menu – not sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing that Le Ball­room is the lat­est ven­ture from the team be­hind the in­flu­en­tial Ex­per­i­men­tal Cock­tail Club, a stylish group of so­cial lounges in London, Ibiza and New York. From the car­damom-in­fused Pondicherry Mule to sig­na­ture con­coc­tions made with el­der­flower syrup, these are not your runof-the-mill cock­tails.

Ed­i­ble treats are a bril­liant way to take a piece of the Parisian foodie scene home with you, and also make for thought­ful gifts. Tea-lovers will adore Mariage Frères’ se­lec­tion of gourmet teas from around the world, while those with a sweet tooth should pop into one of Ladurée’s Baro­quein­spired shops around the city for swoon­wor­thy mac­arons in flavours such as rose petal and salted but­ter caramel.


Paris is re­mark­ably com­pact for a ma­jor cap­i­tal, and is best ex­plored on foot. Don a pair of com­fort­able shoes and take in the cob­bled walk­ways, store win­dows and street stalls that you would nor­mally miss when in a ve­hi­cle. For night­time ad­ven­tures, Ubers are far more rea­son­able than taxis. If you want to use pub­lic trans­port, the ticket of­fices and ma­chines in metro sta­tions sell in­di­vid­ual and book­lets of tick­ets that can be used on buses and city trains as well as the Metro. At €16 for 10 tick­ets (as op­posed to €1.90 for one) it’s cheaper to buy a book­let.

Cycling en­thu­si­asts can also make use of the self-ser­vice Vélib’ cy­cle scheme, which is avail­able 24 hours a day and also of­fers city tours. Sim­ply pur­chase a one- or seven-day ticket on­line or at any Vélib’ sta­tion, and fol­low the on-screen in­struc­tions. The first 30 min­utes of ev­ery trip are free, and there are 1 800 Vélib’ sta­tions lo­cated around the city.

T HIS PAGE, F ROM TOP Inside the lav­ishly dec­o­rated Palais Garnier opera house ( op­er­ade­; the glam­orous in­te­rior of Le Ball­room cock­tail bar and club ( face­book/LeBall­roomDuBeef­club); serv­ing as the main en­trance to the Lou­vre mu­seum is a large glass-and-metal pyra­mid ( lou­

T HIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE F ROM TOP LEFT Es­pace Dalí is a mu­seum de­voted to Sur­re­al­ist artist Sal­vador Dalí; city and trans­port maps are help­fully placed near Metro sta­tions; a night­time glimpse at the Sacré-Coeur Basil­ica church ( sacre-coeur-mont­; the river Seine me­an­ders through the city, tra­versed by nu­mer­ous bridges; Notre-Dame Cathe­dral; strolling through Mont­martre is a great way to spend an evening.

T HIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE F ROM TOP LEFT Mod­ern art on a grand scale is ex­hib­ited at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (; en­joy art through the ages at the Petit Palais mu­seum, which houses the City of Paris Mu­seum of Fine Arts ( pe­tit­; foun­tains flank the Lux­em­bourg Palace; the Mont­martre Ceme­tery is the fi­nal rest­ing place of Alexan­dre Du­mas and Edgar De­gas; don’t leave Paris with­out a mac­aron from Ladurée (; Ga­leries Lafayette at night.

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